Camille Claudel

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 17 Aug 2012

Written, performed and directed with uniform skill by Gael Le Cornec, this one-woman play examines the relationship between sculptor Auguste Rodin and his muse, fellow artist and protofeminist Camille Claudel.

The tragic tale is told entirely from the perspective of Claudel, incarcerated in a mental asylum in 1913 following an absinthe-fuelled descent into madness.

Whirling backwards and forwards in time, Le Cornec skips between characters with simply a flick of her dress or pirouette across the stage. Commentary on the doomed romance is provided by wine-sipping Gallic gossips – scandal, jealousy and pity following the highs and lows of her life.

It’s a sad account of a woman desperately trying to succeed in a man’s world. "They say I sculpt like a man," she laments before pleadingly asking the audience whether they can tell the sex of an artwork.

Returning to the mental asylum at regular intervals, Claudel's version of events sees her betrayed by Rodin, who steals her ideas and even goes so far as to sign her works, claiming them as his own. Whether this is paranoia or something more concrete is never made clear, as the play’s slippery grasp on reality mirrors the protagonist’s failing faculties.

Le Cornec lives and breathes the character in a sublime performance, whether singing and dancing, sharing a drink with the front row or cursing her devilish lover. The tone darkens as the end draws near but a hint of redemption tempers the bleakness.

This is clearly a labour of love for Le Cornec and a worthy tribute to the remarkable Madame Claudel.